Bacalar: a Paradise Lake with 7 Shades of Blue Water

Throughout Mexico you will find some amazing beaches with crystal clear blue waters, but Bacalar takes it up a notch. Although this is a lake, the water here is even clearer and bluer than at most beach destinations.  You could easily compare it to the waters of Maldives or Bora Bora, but the best part is that Bacalar is a much more affordable option. What’s really cool is that Laguna Bacalar has 7 different shades of blue water due to its different depths. Check out our tips for this paradise piece of Mexico here.

Note: To help preserve and restore the beauty of Laguna Bacalar, the lake is closed for recreational activities such as sailing, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking on Wednesdays. However, visitors are still able to enjoy the shore and take a refreshing swim in the clear blue waters.

How to get to Bacalar?

Bacalar is located near the border with Belize, and is a popular destination for travelers coming from Tulum, Palenque or Valladolid. The roads leading to Bacalar are well-paved, making for a comfortable journey along mostly straight stretches of highway. You can find estimated travel times and costs below.

To Bacalar from Tulum

By rental car: 2.5 hours away
By bus: 2.5 hours travel time and runs more than 20x a day

To Bacalar from Valladolid

By rental car: 3.5 hours away
By bus: 4.5 hours travel time and runs 2x daily

To Bacalar from Palenque

By rental car: 6 hours away
By bus: 9 hours travel time and runs 2x daily

What to do in Bacalar?

The primary reason to visit Bacalar is to soak up the beauty of Laguna Bacalar and unwind in a tranquil environment. Typically, two full days are sufficient for most visitors, so plan for a three-night stay. However, regardless of how long you stay, there are several must-see attractions that you shouldn’t miss out on, and we’ve listed them below.

Sailing across Laguna Bacalar

Sailing is the most popular activity in Bacalar, as it offers a chance to leisurely explore the breathtaking lake. It’s an incredibly relaxing way to discover the most picturesque spots of the lake and witness the spectacular 7 different shades of blue water. As you sail, you can enjoy some mouthwatering fresh fruits while taking in the scenic beauty, and at times, even stop to take a dip or snorkel. The guided tour lasted around 3 hours, and the guide we had was very knowledgeable about Bacalar and the region’s history, which added an extra element of enjoyment to the experience. We highly recommend this for a tranquil afternoon in Bacalar!  You can book the sailing tour but should you prefer something cheaper to explore Laguna Bacalar, this boat tour is a good alternative.

Kayaking or supping across Laguna Bacalar

Looking for something a bit more active? Why not try exploring Laguna Bacalar by kayak? Be sure to visit Bird Island, Cenote Negro, and El Canal de Los Piratas for an adventure that will take up a good half day. If you don’t want to kayak for that long, you can always opt for a shorter trip. While a sailing or boat tour may give you more coverage of the lake, kayaking offers a nice alternative to going it alone. Another great option for exploring the lake is with a stand up paddle tour. Entering the lake at sunrise, while it’s still quiet, offers a magical experience during the golden hour. If you prefer to paddle on your own, then you can also rent a SUP board.

Drift snorkeling at Los Rapidos

To get to Los Rapidos, hop in a car or cab and make sure to pack your snorkel. Here, you’ll experience a unique activity called drift snorkeling – where you float through a narrow channel via natural rapids. The best part? You don’t even have to swim, as the current will do all the work for you! After your adventure, take a leisurely walk back to the beginning, and relax in one of the hammocks at the restaurant or give it another go. Los Rapidos also offers kayak rentals and the opportunity to swim and enjoy some refreshing drinks. Keep in mind that there is usually an entrance fee per person.

Note:Bacalar is a protected area, thanks to its unique feature of stromatolites – layers of bacteria that are millions of years old. In fact, it’s one of the few places on Earth where you can find them. When you visit Los Rapidos, you’ll see plenty of these stromatolites in the water, resembling round rocks. These stromatolites not only add to the lagoon’s beauty and unique coloration but also provide high levels of oxygen. However, they are extremely fragile and it’s crucial not to touch them. To minimize the impact on the stromatolites, it’s best to rent a kayak at Los Rapidos.

Chilling out at Las Cocalitos

Want to chill by the water for a few hours? Then Las Cocalitos is the ideal place for this in Bacalar. The water here is simply stunning, with shallow sections and swings and hammocks right in the water. Lay out your towel on the grass, order some delicious tacos and drinks, and bask in the warm Mexican sun. It’s the perfect way to unwind. Be sure to arrive early to beat the crowds and make the most of your time there.

Laguna Bonanzo

These days, Las Cocalitos can get quite crowded in the afternoons, which is why we recommend checking out Laguna Bonanzo instead. Although there may be less space to lounge around, it’s generally quieter than Las Cocalitos. Plus, you can rent a kayak here and be at Los Rapidos in less than a minute – giving you the chance to experience both places for the price of one. Remember to arrive early to get a nice spot and make the most of your day.

Best restaurants in Bacalar

If anyone loves good food it’s us. Every destination starts a new search for great hotspots and these are our favourites in Bacalar:

Enamora – If you’re a fan of delicious breakfasts and lunches like we are, you’ll want to check out Enamora in Bacalar. This hotspot has grown over the years from a simple, small business to a bustling lunch spot with a regular line out the door. And it’s not hard to see why – the menu offers tasty options like toast with beet hummus or shrimp salad, and freshly baked treats including chocolate muffins and carrot cake, not to mention the delectable smoothies. Literally everything is delicious here.

La Kinta – is also a great spot for breakfast, offering freshly made sandwiches and waffles with a variety of toppings.

Mango Y Chile – For dinner, Mango Y Chile comes highly recommended. Here they serve delicious veggie burgers that are barely distinguishable from real burgers. 

La Playita- For a trendy lunch or dinner option, head to La Playita.Although it’s a bit pricier and larger than some other spots, the cozy waterfront setting makes it worth it.

Pizzeria Bertilla – If you’re in the mood for pizza and pasta, Pizzeria Bertilla is the perfect spot, with delectable dishes prepared by a genuine Italian chef. Although the prices may be a bit higher than average, it’s well worth the cost!

Nao – For some delicious sushi, try Nao. And if you’re looking for a quick bite, be sure to check out Mi Burrito Bacalar – a food truck with a cozy patio where you can indulge in delicious and affordable burritos.

Madre Masa –This is a nice little lunch spot where they serve original dishes.

Bote de Leche –Here you can have a delicious evening meal when you are not in the mood for Mexican cuisine.

Our favorite places to stay in Bacalar

Tucked around Laguna Bacalar are some delightful hotels. From your hammock you can spot tropical birds and in due time take a dip in the pool or of course directly into the crystal clear lake. One standout hotel is Agam Hotel, which offers the best value for money in Bacalar. Advantages are the bar, the fine pool and the small garden with hammocks. One thing to keep in mind is that some guests have found the beds at Agam Hotel to be a bit hard and a bit noisy. Despite that, it is a very nice place where it is also easy to get to know other people. Azul 36 Hotel is a bit similar but sometimes a bit more pricey. Looking for something a little more upscale and a little more special? Then we recommend BOA BOA Bacalar. Just outside the center, stay in a waterfront bungalow with great views of Laguna Bacalar. What a little paradise!

Tip: These hotels are very popular and last minute often fully booked or incredibly expensive. So try to book at least several months in advance.